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Monday, June 30, 2008

Memo to Democrats: Don't Question McCain's Military Record

Wesley Clark was on Face the Nation doing just that this weekend. I think this is the sort of thing that you can file under the old adage

with friends like these who needs enemies

Now, I suppose it is possible that Clark thought he had credibility to challenge McCain's military record because of his own distinguished record of service. While his own record is distinguished, it is of course no less obscene to challenge McCain's. Furthermore, it is possible that Clark thought he was being cute because he didn't technically challenge his record, but rather he tried to link his record to his qualifications as commander in chief.

Either way, this is the sort of stunt that I would advise the Democrats to stay away from. I was surprised to read this in the Politico today.

But farther to the left — and among some of McCain's conservative enemies as well — harsher attacks are circulating. Critics have accused McCain of war crimes for bombing targets in Hanoi in the 1960s.

A widely read liberal blog on Sunday accused McCain of "disloyalty" during his captivity in Vietnam for his coerced participation in propaganda films and interviews after he’d been tortured.

"A lot of people don't know ... that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity," wrote's John Aravosis. "Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain's military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief?"

"Getting shot down, tortured and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience," Aravosis wrote in the blog post, titled "Honestly, besides being tortured, what did McCain do to excel in the military?"


The newsletter CounterPunch published this April an article by Doug Valentine headed "Meet the Real John McCain: North Vietnam's Go-To Collaborator."

Valentine suggested McCain contemplated suicide — something the candidate has written about, and attributed in part to his guilt at not withstanding torture — because he was a "war criminal" whose bombs fell on civilians.


"I wouldn't characterize anybody who fought in Vietnam as a war hero," said Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the theatrical anti-war group Code Pink. "In 23 bombing sorties, there must have been civilians that were killed and there's no heroism to that."

"Anyone who can't look back and admit how wrong it was to be in Vietnam and be killing civilians deserves to be challenged," she said, though she stressed that her group is more focused on McCain's present support for the war in Iraq than on his past.

Benjamin said she had her doubts about whether criticism of McCain's record could catch on, and she's not the only skeptic. Even Valentine, the CounterPunch author, said McCain's wartime experience could only be questioned "off-Broadway."


"The questions could scarcely even be understood within the reigning intellectual and moral culture — though I don't doubt that much of thepopulation would understand," Chomsky said.

And Aravosis was unapologetic about his charge of "disloyalty," citing the similar charges levied at Kerry from the right in 2004. "McCain is running for president of the United States, not the student council.

He should stop feigning shock and outrage and start answering some very legitimate questions about his character and his experience," he said. "Well, the Republicans sported Band-Aids to mock John Kerry's medals from Vietnam. They mocked his injuries in war." "McCain isn't being mocked, he's being questioned," he said.

Of course, it goes without saying that most of the attacks have come from the loony fringes of the Democratic party and its allies. Though, Clark's attack follows another similar attack by Jay Rockefeller. Of course, it is up to each party to keep their fringes muzzled. These folks think they are helping. They think they are raising legitimate questions, but in fact, all they are doing is driving the debate to places that no Democrats wants them to go.

Of course, the Republicans also have their share of kooks that also hurt when they mean to help. For instance, James Dobson attempted to pick an existential debate with Barack Obama recently over the interpretation of scripture. The last thing the Republicans need is one of their surrogates inserting religion into the campaign lest the Republicans confirm the notion that they are beholden to religious zealots.

Of course, the Republicans couldn't ask for anything more than this election being a referendum on McCain's military service. While it would no doubt be painful and difficult, there is nothing more politically viable than McCain recounting his experience being tortured. Can you imagine significant portions of this campaign being spent having McCain recount again how he refused to be released unless his comrades went with him? Do the Democrats really need Americans reminded that McCain comes from a long line of patriots who each served their country during war? Furthermore, do they really want the country reminded just how bare Obama's own service is compared to McCain's?

Of course, these are pipe dreams for Republicans and this campaign will not be about McCain's service. Still, the Democrats need to minimize not maximize the amount of time the media spends discussing McCain's military service. This sort of strategy ranks right up there with a focus on the two candidates list of political accomplishments.

Finally, it should be noted that Obama did the classy and politically astute thing and distanced himself as far as possible from Clark...

"As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark," Obama spokesman Bill Burton says in a statement.
That should put this incident to rest though it should also put to rest any talk of Clark being anywhere near Obama's administration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Clark did this on purpose, he is a loyal Hillary supporter, with no aspirations for a VP slot.
He deliberately wanted to sabotage BOs campaign just like Wright and Pfleiger.
Pay back is a b****, ain't it BO?